Archived Story

Beer garden back better than ever

Published 7:48pm Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce did a great job in general with re-energizing the 28th annual Summer in the City and in particular with resurrecting the beer garden dropped in the 1990s.

There were about a dozen new events, including BMX bicycle tricks and Frisbee dogs, plus amusement rides, last featured in 2004.

Kyle Belew of Wounded Minnow took a lead role in laying out the beer garden between Front Street Crossing and City Hall and arranging adequate security.

The only shortcoming was cool weather, which felt more like fall football than the usual sticky evening for another kind of cool one.

Besides Belew, the board was well-represented all night by Kim MacGregor, Jim Frazier, Kris Lamphere and Mark Herman.

Its goal is to increase attendance among three demographics — young professionals ages 25 to 45, who have not been well-represented for many years; day visitors from vacation resort communities such as Sister Lakes; and, on Saturday, to entice Steve’s Run competitors to linger downtown after the awards ceremony.

The beer garden area helps disperse the entertainment focus farther south on Front Street instead of clustered around the Beckwith Park bandstand.

Belew brought five years experience at the former Venetian Festival in St. Joseph to overseeing beer garden management.

The Minnow’s paid employees, TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management)-certified, served as waitresses and bartenders. TAM certification is awarded by the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.

All security, volunteers and paid staff were identifiable by orange shirts.

Off-duty police officers from the city force and sheriff’s office, as well as trained security, were stationed at the “door” and throughout the area to check identification at the only entrance and exit. Security discouraged carry-in beverages being brought onto the site. Signage spelled out the dress code.

Fencing was placed strategically to protect landscaping.

There was an affordable $3 cover charge. Tickets were available in one area at a booth.

All transactions inside the fencing required use of tickets.

Wrist bands proved paid-up cover charge.

The Minnow arranged a food vendor inside the fencing.

Finally, there was Jordi, the perfect band for Saturday night.

The Pontius brothers, Jon on lead guitar and Noah on bass, are local legends and showed why as a very versatile classic rock cover band fronted by strong vocals by Dave Stroup, plus drummer Brian Hess.

Reunited just two months ago, they played a wide swath of the genre, from Bad Company, AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” to “Her Strut” by Michigan’s own Bob Seger, Greg Kihn’s “The Breakup Song” and even some Electric Light Orchestra.

We hope the beer garden continues to be part of Summer in the City.



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